Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Half the Circle

This looks a bit lop-sided.  Throughout most of February, all the planets are on one side of the sky wheel;  the other side is empty. So for example, when the sun is setting, all the other planets are in the western half of the sky as well.  And when it’s rising, all the other planets are in the east.  Like a bunch of true believers, a bunch of sycophants.  Like Congress these days.   

After February 22, the moon breaks away and ventures into the empty half of the sky.  But until then, it hangs out with the others, forming what’s called a “bowl” pattern.

In an astrological chart, a bowl pattern gives a great deal of certainty. All planets occupy the same reality, and reinforce each other, and there is no access at all to “the other side”, the empty side.  There can be a sense that there’s something missing, but since it’s not clear what that is, a person with a bowl chart tends to double down on what she/he knows to be true. 

This is not to say that there’s anything intrinsically bad about this pattern.  Because a person with a bowl chart isn’t distracted by many contradictions, she can be particularly confident, creative and focused.  She knows what she knows, and acts on it.  Certainty is very partial to manifestation.

At the same time, that certainty is based on a fallacy.  Even if the person doesn’t see or understand it, there is a whole unexplored half-world out there.  There is a field of experience equal to her own, one that might challenge her convictions.  And if she doesn’t know it exists, she can’t go there. 

Successful politicians often have bowl charts, an advantage because they don’t have to waste energy pretending to consider inimical viewpoints.  Donald Trump has this pattern in his chart, as do some of his nearest and dearest: Ben Carson, Betsy DeVos, Jared Kushner, Steve Bannon, and Kim Jong-Un.  The Duvaliers (Baby Doc and Papa Doc) had it, as did Slobodan Milosevic and Hugo Ch├ívez. 

But before you get the wrong idea about this not-so-common planetary pattern, note also that it’s a signature in the charts of Abraham Lincoln, Elizabeth Cady Stanton,  Helen Keller, Eleanor Roosevelt, Eugene McCarthy, Bill Clinton, Al Sharpton, Bernie Sanders, Aung San Suu Kyi, and Assata Shakur. A singular vision can magnify flaws, but it can also give courage, idealism, and commitment.    

So, during the next month, people are more likely to center themselves in a particular viewpoint, and not budge from it.  The planetary configuration makes it easy for all of us to see what’s all around us, supporting our position, and renders the opposite stance invisible. 

We will all find reasons to be right.  Those with fiery charts will be on the moral high ground, while those with earthy charts will claim that there’s only one practical possibility.  Airy folks will have lots of reasonable arguments, while watery people will base it all on gut feelings.  All of this begs the question:  what if the other side is making equally valid points?    

Lately, I’ve been dealing with many expressions of passionate certainty in a lesbian writers’ group.  The issue of transgender acceptance has come up, and this has been a divisive issue for the lesbian community for many years.  Michfest, our long-time women’s festival, beloved by many lesbians, floundered largely on this point. 

I’ve followed this discussion with great interest.  I have good friends – people I respect -  with diametrically opposite stances.  And so I have been trying to see both sides of this struggle.  That’s my intent, and sometimes I manage it, and sometimes not so much.      

On the one side, trans women are people, and exclusion is hurtful.  They’ve dedicated years and money and energy to becoming women.  There’s no going back.  Why can’t they just be accepted? 

On the other side, women have struggled for years to divorce womankind from all gender expectations, and when men start to identify as women, often they dive into these female trappings with great alacrity.  At the same time, they may be unconscious of such male tendencies as centering their own comfort in every situation.  This is by no means intrinsic to maleness;  it’s part of being in a privileged position.  It’s learned behavior over many years, and it isn’t unlearned immediately.

I think the only solution is to recognize that gender roles are flimsy at best.  There are plenty of specific gendered situations, like menstruating and giving birth, but these events don’t usually constitute the whole of a person’s life.  So why should gender play such a big role?   Why is it such a core part of our identities? 

And I’m speaking as a feminist, as someone who has worked hard to affirm and strengthen women.  But that’s only because we’re a less-privileged class, not because of some shining star within our souls.  Like all less-privileged groups, we need to connect with our own power on a very basic level. 

And eventually, I’m thinking that all these variations in dressing and make-up will become nothing but stylistic preferences, equally available to everyone.  Meanwhile, I believe we should be kind to each other, whenever possible.  And I also believe we should tell the truth about what we feel - although sometimes those two things are not compatible with each other. 

And meanwhile, my group – after a lot of emotional discussion – has agreed to a more inclusive approach.  This is not just an opening for trans women. It turns out that many of us feel “othered” for many reasons, judged as “not a real lesbian”, or even “not a real woman”. And many others are foraging around for non-traditional words and pronouns to describe ourselves.  Making room for misfits acknowledges that none of us really fits.

But who knows?   Perhaps I too am only seeing my half of the grapefruit, and thinking that that’s the way the fruit dropped from the tree.